As the 2016 legislative year comes to a close, we are delighted to report a number of victories—and a few areas where further work is needed.
Public financing of campaigns is now a possibility throughout California! The Governor signed SB 1107 (Allen) to remove a ban on public financing for general law cities, counties, districts, and the state and help level the playing field for candidates. Helping local jurisdictions adopt the public financing plan most appropriate for them will be a good action project for local Leagues in the coming year.
Cal-Access, the state’s online database of campaign finance and lobbying information, will be modernized and made user-friendly and easy to access by SB 1349 (Hertzberg). Replacing Cal-Access will improve campaign finance transparency and help voters make informed choices at the ballot box. (While we wait for this major revision to occur, you will find the Power Search button on the Secretary of State’s website very helpful.)
The League cosponsored AB 2466 (Weber), which clarifies that people with low level felonies who are sentenced to county jails or local supervision through the criminal justice realignment law of 2011 can register and vote. Only felons in state prison or on state parole are barred.
Our state’s voting process will be revised and modernized by SB 450 (Allen), which will make voting more accessible and convenient with vote-by-mail ballots, drop-off boxes, early voting, and vote centers, starting in 14 counties in 2018. This reform focuses on improving voter experience and is modeled after a Colorado program that has increased turnout while lowering costs. It will be available to other counties (with a variation for Los Angeles County) in 2020.
Redistricting is another area of marked advances. All California cities and counties can now establish effective independent redistricting commissions, thanks to SB 1108 (Allen). SB 958 (Lara) establishes a Citizens Redistricting Commission for Los Angeles County modeled after the state’s commission.
The California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) promotes better representation and protects voting rights by stipulating when local governments must change from at-large to district-based elections. The LWVC supported three bills to improve and streamline that process. AB 2220 (Cooper) and AB 2389 (Ridley-Thomas) allow cities and special districts, respectively, to make the change without prior voter approval. AB 350 (Alejo) improves public input on district boundaries and scheduling of staggered-term elections and establishes procedures for initiating a CVRA enforcement action.
We regret that Governor Brown vetoed a bill, SB 1288 (Leno), permitting local ranked choice voting. And we are sad that a bill establishing local contribution limits, AB 2523 (Mullin), failed to pass the Senate, but local districts are nonetheless able to enact their own limits if they choose.
One of the League’s highest priorities for this biennium has been action on climate change. After a productive 2015, further progress seemed elusive until this year’s session was nearly over. But League members statewide helped boost a pair of bills that passed in late August and were signed by the Governor with appropriate fanfare in September.
SB 32 (Pavley) extends the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32 of 2006, by setting a target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Its companion bill, AB 197 (E. Garcia), protects disadvantaged communities and those most affected by air pollution and includes the social costs of carbon as a factor for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of GHG reduction measures. It also requires more transparency and accountability of the California Air Resources Board.
Another priority for education and advocacy adopted by LWVC Convention 2015 was “sustainable water.” We are pleased that Governor Brown signed these League-supported bills:
- AB 2480 (Bloom) puts funding of watershed restoration projects on an equal basis with other water infrastructure
- SB 7 (Wolk) requires individual water meters in new multifamily housing
- SB 1262 (Pavley) requires that groundwater sustainability be considered in water supply and land use planning.
We were disappointed by the Governor’s veto of SB 900 (Jackson), which would have required the removal and remediation of coastal hazards caused by abandoned (“legacy”) oil and gas wells.
A major disappointment was the failure of the legislature and governor to come together on a way to increase the supply of low-income housing. A May budget proposal by Governor Brown that tied funds for housing to a proposal to streamline the approval of certain housing projects was unpopular with labor, environmentalists, and others, and no agreement was reached before the legislative session ended.
The League supported bills to increase low-income housing tax credits—AB 2817 (Chiu)—and to authorize local ordinances requiring the inclusion of low-income homes in housing developments—AB 2502 (Mullin)—but they did not make it through the process this year.
On the positive side, the Governor signed two League-supported bills, AB 1014 (Thurmond) and SB 527 (Liu), that establish a grant program using funds from Proposition 47 of 2014 to reduce truancy and support students who are at risk of dropping out of school or are victims of crime.
The League supported AB 709 (Gipson), which would have required charter schools to abide by open meeting and disclosure rules followed by other public schools, on the basis of our positions on open government and preK-12 education. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed this bill.
For details on these and all the other bills in the LWVC’s Bill Status Report, visit